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Prior to this year’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, franchise reboot composer Oscar Araujo scored the first direct sequel to 2010’s original Lords of Shadow, subtitled Mirror of Fate. Released late in 2013, Mirror of Fate’s plot surrounds Lords of Shadow protagonist Gabriel Belmont’s son and grandson respectively, Trevor and Simon, as well as series character Alucard. Just as the game was panned as a slight departure from the original Lords of Shadow formulaically, Araujo’s score is similarly different, but thankfully and perhaps not surprisingly, a wonderful and exciting work in its own right.
Whether by consequence of the Mirror of Fate game’s different playability or other influences like track arrangement, the score has more of a stage-by-stage feel combined with Araujo’s other Castlevania work, rather than the embodiment of a “journey” seemingly implied with the original Lords of Shadow. In cases where the music wasn’t as succinct, effective, or enthralling, a weaker album would result, but that isn’t the situation here in terms of the compositions themselves. Mirror of Fate alternates, nay, almost takes turns between tracks of beauty and tracks of action and suspense. However, such flipping back-and-forth doesn’t detract from the overall experience.
Sequences of aural beauty include those at the beginning, “Mirror of Fate Main Theme” and “Gabriel’s Farewell,” where the former presents undulating strings awash in gothic keyboard melody and the latter, albeit with a tinge more melancholy and feeling of yearn, remind of the wondrous scenes of Lords of Shadow like “Labyrinth Entrance” and “Waterfalls of Agharta.” Other area-specific tracks display similar magnificence, like “Ballroom,” whose emotive sound returns the ear to the album’s beginning, “Library,” whose gorgeous string melodies are covered with a light frost of gongs and horns, “Carousel,” which brings to mind Nobuo Uematsu’s work on Lost Odyssey, and most notably one of the album’s highlights, “Theatre.” Therein, gentle string picking is soon joined by flutes and meandering string growth along with motes of piano, before building to a crescendo with Araujo’s near-trademark choral chanting excellence. If there was a spiritual successor to Lords of Shadow’s aforementioned “Waterfalls of Agharta,” Mirror of Fate’s “Theatre” is definitely it. Were it longer, later track “Games Room” might also be in the same vein.
On the side of action-oriented tracks, Mirror of Fate takes some of the thematic material from Lords of Shadow, tweaks it a bit structurally, and reintroduces it with some interesting reflections. Take “Night Watchmen,” for example, where an ascending string melody lends gravitas to driving, folky, harrowing chops, accentuated all the while by scratchy percussion and later, male choral chanting. “Necromancer” has a darker spin, driven by oppressive, heavy piano laying the groundwork for similar male chanting and spiraling forays of horn and woodwind instrumentation. “Succubus” takes us along a different direction, hearkening back to the boss battle setpieces of Lords of Shadow (namely “The Swamp Troll” and “The Ice Titan”) as well as Castlevania: Lament of Innocence’s “Anti-Soul Mysteries Lab,” with its underlying current of soprano vocals bestowing a threatening grandeur that excites on a vehicle of tumult. “Reaver” reestablishes that excitement later, aurally checking “The Warg” from Lords of Shadow while breeding its own unnerving choral chanting, before giving way to a coalescence of synth and organ. It’s with final track “Final Fight” where the beautiful and suspenseful meld together, beginning similar to “Necromancer” before culminating in a string, percussion, and choral assembly that almost perfectly encapsulates the Lords of Shadow and Mirror of Fate amalgam of sound Araujo may or may not have intended.
Castlevania fans are very lucky of late, with proper commercial and CD releases of the last three game outings being issued. Mirror of Fate, though an overlooked game title by some, has a score by Oscar Araujo that’s just as polished and wonderful as Lords of Shadow and Lords of Shadow 2. While the alternating motifs of the album’s tracks initially give one pause, Mirror of Fate’s cohesion is in its pure strength of composition and ability to engage the listener through arresting certainty. Mirror of Fate should be grabbed up posthaste by Castlevania fans and again displays the brilliance of composer Oscar Araujo.